Samson – “Live At Reading ’81”

Samson – “Live At Reading ’81” Deluxe (Dissonance)

Battle Helm Rating

If you grew up during the NWOBHM then the name Samson stood happily alongside Iron Maiden, Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang, Girlschool, and a heap of upcoming bands. Formed by guitarist Paul Samson in the late 70s, earlier beginning with Gillan’s bassist John McCoy and a young Clive Burr (with Samson himself replacing Bernie Tormé) the line up was later solidified by sound engineer bassist Chris Aylmer, Barry ‘Thunderstick’ Purkis on drums and ‘Bruce Bruce’ – aka Bruce Dickinson on vocals! Releasing 2 hit albums in “Head On” and “Shock Tactics”, each increasingly more metallized than its predecessor while retaining a quintessential 70s British heavy rock core, Samson soon became a name expected to follow the lead of NWOBHM’s luminaries. Tragically, it was not to happen as the band were constantly beset by management and label problems, culminating in Dickinson’s departure to Iron Maiden. Although the band continued with Nicky Moore, much of the steam had been lost and by 1984 the group disbanded, with Paul Samson himself carrying on as a solo artist. Following a turn of the century nostalgic reunion with Thunderstick and Aylmer, Samson succumbed to cancer in 2002, with Aylmer following suite in 2007. Having seen the band myself with Dickinson and later at the Astoria re-union show in 2000, meeting Paul Samson backstage, I will always have time for the band’s sterling music, no better captured than in this top performance at the 1981 Reading Festival, reflecting the band at their peak in my opinion. With star session drummer Mel Gaynor (Simple Minds and later Elton John, Lou Reed, Tina Turner, Meat Loaf etc) providing the back beat, Dickinson’s soaring highs take the material to the level at which they can be appreciated – little wonder that he was approached by Maiden’s manager Rod Smallwood after the show – talk about history! Despite personality differences between Dickinson and Samson, I’ve always felt that Bruce brought out the best in Paul Samson’s work and it’s all over the 10 tracks here – along with 3 bonus rehearsal tracks prior to the “Shock Tactics” tour. From the roaring hard rock of ‘Riding With The Angels’ to the sleazy blues rock of ‘Vice Versa’ to the dark trip of ‘Walking Out On You’ the sheer range of memorable songs attests to Samson’s composing skills, not to mention the band’s talent in being able to pull it all off in fine style. For me, the neolithic rock of ‘Earth Mother’ with its raw metallic riffing but ultra catchy chorus will always be synonymous with Samson, from Gaynor’s thundering drums to Aylmer’s rumbling bass and Paul’s classy guitar, and of course, those remarkable Dickinson highs. The Reading crowd know it – judging by the roars – and if you were there you’d know it too. Paul, Chris, and Samson, RIP.

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